Australia’s student start-ups “compare well to Europe”

The leader of a local student entrepreneurship group has likened Australian student-start-ups to those in Scandinavian countries, claiming there are more similarities than there are differences.


Amir Nissen, founder of Student Entrepreneurs the University of Melbourne, recently attended the European Institute of Technology Youth and Entrepreneurship Conference, held in Kraków.


The objective of the trip was to check out the start-up scene in Europe, namely in Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland.


According to Nissen, there are plenty of differences between student start-ups in Australia and Scandinavia but there are also many similarities.


“Sweden has entrepreneurship more or less instituted within all the universities… And they have a network of incubators,” Nissen says.


“For students, there are some pre-incubator incubators, which is very strong – a bit like a hands-on version of the co-working spaces that have started popping up around Melbourne and Sydney.”


“In terms of help by the [Australian] universities, this varies on which uni and who you know there.”


“Often, universities have some level of grant funding available to student initiatives but these tend to focus more on the social start-ups and other non-profit initiatives.”


“[But unlike Australia,] the whole accelerator program hasn’t really hit Sweden, perhaps because the incubator system is so strong.”


Nissen believes Finland’s student start-up scene is “perhaps a little closer to home” in terms of how developed it is.


“There’s something of a renaissance in [Finland capital] Helsinki in particular at the moment, in part because Nokia is on the decline, meaning a lot of good engineers are out of work and the talent isn’t getting sucked out of uni straight away,” he says.


“Rovio – creators of Angry Birds – are pretty active in the community, which helps, and last but not least is one of the most dynamic student entrepreneurship groups in the world.”


“They started in ’09, got a fair bit of support from the university and are now killing it in terms of the programs they run.”


“I feel like they are at where we – Student Entrepreneurs – could be with more support.”


According to Nissen, student entrepreneurship groups in Australian universities often lack long-term strategies to ensure their survival, to the detriment of the student start-ups they serve.


“Student-led entrepreneurial groups have existed at one point or another in most Australian major universities for the past 25 years,” he says.


“The problem is that they tend to die out shortly after the founder leaves.”


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